Endless Possibilities for Critical Making

Endless Possibilities for Critical Making

Noise musician Shawn Greenlee 96 PR remembers an illuminating conversation with the organizers of Germany’s largest arts festival when they couldn’t quite figure out how to list his work in their program. “I told them to list me as ‘sound,’” the assistant professor and programs director of Foundation Studies explains. “It seemed the most straightforward way to communicate my type of performance for a traditional audience. But it was a moment to note because I realized my field of study doesn’t have defined, rigidly cast boundaries. And that’s typical of RISD work.”

Greenlee shared this story while participating in Critical Making: Making Critical Outcomes, a panel discussion hosted by interim President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID as part of RISD by Design weekend. Fellow alumni Samantha Dempsey 13 IL and David Wiseman 03 FD also took part in the discussion, sharing insights and answering questions posed by families visiting campus from October 10-12 for alumni and parents’ weekend.

Just a year out of school, Dempsey told the audience that her RISD education opened doors to extraordinary possibilities. As an undergraduate, she earned a Maharam STEAM Fellowship in Applied Art and Design, which allowed her to do a summer internship at the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation. There, she designed a kit that helps patients identify and communicate medical needs through visual tools, which in turn helps practitioners treat them more holistically and effectively.

“The world needs this kind of out-of-the-box thinking to fix big, complex problems,” notes Dempsey, who now works as an experience designer for the Boston-based firm Mad*Pow. “A former boss used to joke that a housewife, an engineer and a RISD grad could fix any problem in under an hour,” she adds with a smile.

Wiseman also credits RISD with providing the framework to establish a highly successful and satisfying career as a multifaceted lighting and furniture designer who also does site-specific installations. Two years after graduating from the Furniture Design department, the California native was commissioned to install hundreds of porcelain cherry blossoms on the ceiling of a Georgian-style house in downtown Los Angeles. The year-long project generated enough news coverage that it led to more high-end commissions, which sparked still more work – including, most recently, a series of ethereal wall sculptures now on display at Christian Dior’s flagship store in New York City.

After hearing Wiseman’s story, a mother of a student studying Furniture Design asked the panelists if it was normal for seniors to feel a tinge of nervousness about entering the job market. “We find that it’s common for some students to need about a year after graduation to find their footing,” Somerson candidly replied. “They are given recipes to succeed at RISD – and then they need time to get cooking… But when it all comes together, the possibilities are endless.”

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